Beware road pricing

ROAD pricing is a free market idea. Therefore it is a nonsense.

Allow me a quick rant. I believe in markets, I really do. But I don’t believe in free markets because they do not exist, have never existed and never will exist. They are as mythical as the proletarian utopia on the other end of the political spectrum.

The flaw in the free market argument is humans. The theoretical wonder of free markets would exist if only humans would stop interfering. See the problem? If we stop being human free markets will work.

Road pricing is based on the idea that roads are a scarce commodity and that if you force people to pay for them then the best economic use will be made of them. This is true. But what about the rest of us that don’t use roads for purely economic purposes? We can swing for it, it seems.

This piece of right-wing thinking has been put into practice by London’s ‘Red’ Ken Livingston, a man I have a lot of time for as it happens. As a leftist, I would point out that charging a flat rate for road use simply preserves them for the rich. Ken seems to think that by charging commuters, who do have a bit of cash, and putting it into public transport that he is effecting a sort of wealth distribution.

It looks like latter day feudalism to me.

Property has far too much rights as it is and road pricing seems like a form of privatisation to me. Ken is opening a can of worms which the slimeballs of the right are only too willing to wriggle in. Why stop at roads? Why not apply the same principle to parks? To hospitals? To courts? To parenting? To having a pee? Why, indeed, not drop the pretense that came about with the Enlightenment that we have a common humanity? Never mind the UN Charter, son, show me your plastic!

I don’t like the wagging finger of slippery-slopeism but this is a slippery slope.

I’ll put it as simply as I can. If all human relations are reduced to commodity transactions and the broad practicalities of life are not kept open to everyone then we are facing a situation where social relations become meaningless – where the existence of the family, the community, the nation, the world is a burden on consumer individualism. There will be a huge price to pay – but it won’t be measured in euro.

As Well As That...

End the West Link tolls now

The London road pricing scheme works by taking a picture of car number plates as they pass a certain point. If it works well (there will be flaws), then it should be applied to the WestLink toll bridge ASAP.

The WestLink is a standing scandal where a private company was given a concession where the motorists of Dublin will end up paying over a billion euro for a bridge that cost less than €30m.

That’s bad enough. But every year millions more euro is wasted as people are stopped in the middle of the highway in order to hand over a few coins. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so bloodymindedly stupid.

These toll gates should be lifted immediately and shadow tolls installed (like London’s).